The Cove documentary may have stopped dolphin slaughter in Japan

The Cove, a new, well-reviewed documentary that chronicles the secret slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan, may have actually had an impact on the practice.

The Cove is described on its web site as “a provocative mix of investigative journalism, eco-adventure and arresting imagery that adds up to an urgent plea for hope.” Because the way “fishermen of Taiji, driven by a multi-billion dollar dolphin entertainment industry and an underhanded market for mercury-tainted dolphin meat, engage in an unseen hunt,” the filmmakers say they had to “carry out an undercover operation to photograph the off-limits cove, while playing a cloak-and-dagger game with those who would have them jailed.”

The making of the film–which The New York Times reported involved “cloak-and-dagger techniques used to obtain images,” including the graphic killing of dolphins–is documented in The Whale Warriors: The Battle at the Bottom of the World to Save the Planet’s Largest Mammals, which itself is about Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd, stars of Animal Planet’s awesome reality series Whale Wars.

The film follows Ric O’Barry Japan, who captured and trained the dolphins used in the TV show Flipper but went on to found The Dolphin Project, which has “worked to stop the capture and confinement of dolphins worldwide.” On Tuesday, O’Barry wrote in a blog post that although the dolphin killing happens the first week in September, when he arrived Tuesday, “[t]here were no dolphin killers in sight” but instead, “for the first time, [Japanese TV stations] have shown up, with cameras rolling.”

Thus, the producers’ activist filmmaking may have had an effect. Earlier this summer, the film’s director, Louie Psihoyos, told TakePart, “I’ve been a journalist for 35 years and I really just got tired of being a spectator. A spectator to atrocities in the world and that’s basically what we are. We’re mostly a nation of spectators. We’re watching the decline of the environment and were waiting for someone else to fix it.”

The documentary is now in wide release across the country (and will eventually be released on DVD). As the trailer below illustrates, the results of their undercover operation are edited into a movie that seems more like a thriller than a documentary:

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.